SHELBY – The city of Shelby's Community Improvement Corporation officially introduced to the public a new plan to revitalize Shelby's Main Street corridor.
Nearly 100 people gathered in the basement of Marvin Memorial Library on Tuesday to learn about the Community Improvement Corporation's (CIC) vision for Shelby that includes attention to Main Street, the Black Fork Commons, and the Black Fork River.
"We need to make our wonderful town look better to attract a generation that wants to live and work here," said Jake Penwell, vice president of CIC. "I don't think we're fooling anybody in this room to say we need a little bit of a facelift in town. We have great assets and great things."
Early estimates put the total project cost at approximately $2.75 million; with current grant and donor fund estimates, the investment from the city for the entire project would total approximately $445,000.
No new tax would be created to pay for the project, it would not impact any current street paving projects, and the city's contribution would count for an estimated one-sixth of the total project cost.
The Shelby Foundation also announced on Tuesday that it would be investing $250,000 towards the project, the largest gift in the Foundation's 34-year history.
"If matching dollars do not become available, this project will not happen," said Penwell. "Sometimes it takes an investment to make things happen."
The CIC hopes to present their plan to Shelby City Council for approval in August. Future meetings of council would determine how the city intends to contribute financially to the project.
If all goes to plan, the first phases of the project could be up and running as early as 2020, with estimated completion dates in 2023.
The Main Street Corridor plan builds upon the recommendations of the Economic Development Action Plan created by The Montrose Group and first adopted by the city of Shelby in 2017. It includes both a long-term vision for a vibrant downtown, and short-term actionable items.
"We didn't want a plan that just addressed what we should do today, but what we should do 30 years from now," said CIC board member Cody Albert. "We also wanted near-term actionable things to really make an improvement downtown."
The revitalization plan identified three major projects: the Main Street Streetscape, the Black Fork Commons Plaza, and the Black Fork Trail and Stream Restoration.
The Main Street Streetscape would include pedestrian enhancements to provide safe and comfortable access to retailers and downtown open space amenities, including the Black Fork Commons and Skiles Field. It would also improve downtown's aesthetics with added landscaping, improved flowerpots and new furniture.
The Black Fork Commons Plaza would create an active community gathering space in the heart of downtown Shelby. It would include added amenities such as an outdoor café area, an interactive fountain, a pergola and a fireplace, as well as enhancements to the existing pavilion.
The Black Fork Trail and Stream Restoration project would serve as the initial phase of stream restoration. It would include a shared-use trail that could provide a recreational link between the city's reservoirs, while providing accessible environmental treatment for the stream banks.
In addition to holding a number of city focus groups, the CIC contracted with The Edge Group to create a plan identifying the strengths and weaknesses of Shelby, as well as opportunities for improvement.
"It's always interesting to get someone that doesn't live in Shelby's perspective on our town, because they see a gem in the rough not necessarily how we do," Albert said.
The strengths of Shelby identified by the Edge group include the downtown architecture, green space and the river corridor, successful building re-use such as The Vault Wine Bar, and a passion and momentum in the city for change, preservation and revitalization.
Opportunities for improvement, reflected in the new plan, included expanding riverfront space and access, a streetscape that promotes walkability and a sense of place, a mix of building uses downtown, and branding that celebrates the great things about Shelby such as agriculture, manufacturing and technology.
Conversely, the weaknesses identified by Edge include the condition of the buildings downtown, the city's negative perception of the river steeped in its history of flooding, a lack of a downtown "anchor" such as office or retail space, truck traffic down Main Street, and the city's aging demographic.